Scenes From the End of the World

Photo: Catherine Park

On the train up to 59th Street at nine last night, I began to understand we were fucked.

I didn’t intimate this to my friend, who was sitting quietly next to me, but I listened to a group of women and one man at the far end of the train talk to each other about what we all feared would happen.

“If Donald Trump gets elected,” one said. “Ooo boy.” She trailed off. The four were making jokes and smiling at each other in a familiar, nervous way. Three of the group got off the train. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow,” one woman shouted back before the doors closed. She paused: “Oh wait, actually I won’t. I’m off.” A normal exchange on a normal evening in a normal city, a place yet to be shaken.

It was on the walk to Trump Tower that my heart started to hurt — switching from a fast beating to a tightening — as we accidentally fell in line with a blonde woman carrying a massive American flag and spitting angrily that Clinton was “a diabolical person.” Her phone rang as we clipped behind her. “Trump has a 54 percent chance of winning the presidency,” she shouted gleefully to the person on the other line. It was 9:30 p.m. “And that’s the New York Times saying it.”

Earlier, things had felt lighter — surer. At The Wing, women socialized with each other over tables of lit candles, snacks, and drinks. At the Gizmodo Media Group offices, as the first polls began to close, people made jokes about Karl Rove over pizza. Someone offered a wager — five to one — that Clinton would lose. Only one person took it.

Throughout the night, I traveled from downtown Manhattan to the Flatiron District to Midtown to Bushwick to Williamsburg. In a taxi to Brooklyn, after watching groups of angry men outside the Hilton shouting for Hillary to be jailed, our driver, Mohammad Hoque, laughed incredulously. “Everybody votes for the people who are awful!” he said. “Who is voting for this guy!” When we got out at our next stop, he added, “There is going to be a Third World War.”

At New Women Space, a laptop sat out in a dead-silent room. Four women sat at the table watching the returns come in. The projected livestream wasn’t updating fast enough, they said. It was 10:30 p.m. The projections were overwhelmingly favoring Trump. What would these women do come tomorrow if those projections were borne out? What would their days even look like?

One woman, Faye Phillips, an employee at the Department of Education, said she’d be at work, bright and early. She wasn’t going to let the children and schools that depend on her down. Another woman had a job interview — she wasn’t sure if she should try to reschedule, given the circumstances. A third, Katie Schad, who works in advertising, said she wanted to go “on an apology tour” to say sorry to everyone about what had happened tonight.

Before grabbing our things to head to our next stop, I overheard one woman speaking to a friend. “The world,” she said, “has a greater capacity for bad than I thought possible.”

Scenes From the End of the World